Ex-Zambo del Sur town mayor, vice mayor convicted of graft

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DAVAO CITY —  Former Mayor Wilfredo Balais of Labason town in Zamboanga del Norte and his former vice mayor, Virgilio Go, have been convicted of graft for the anomalous purchase of a sports utility vehicle (SUV) in 2011.

According to the decision from the Sandiganbayan’s Sixth Division dated Nov. 29, Balais and Go violated Section 3(e) of the Anti Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (Republic Act No. 3019 ) when bought the vehicle without proper bidding.

The court also noted that the SUV in question, a 2001 model Nissan Patrol wagon, was purchased by the municipal government from a certain Eduardo Ayunting, who previously purchased it from Balais himself.

The government bought it for P960,000 even if Balais’ selling price was P500,000 — thus disadvantaging the government and showing evident bad faith that was enough to convict the two.

“Accused Balais and Go’s acts, as part of the convoluted scheme, caused the purchase by the Municipality of Labason of the subject vehicle, in contravention of the law,” the decision penned by division chair and Associate Justice Sarah Jane Fernandez said.

“Such acts squarely fall within the definition of bad faith, which connotes not only bad judgment, but also palpably and patently fraudulent and dishonest purpose to do moral obliquity or conscious wrongdoing for some perverse motive or ill will,” the court added.

The anti-graft court noted that there was irregularity in the way the bidding was conducted, starting off with specifying a brand name and a model in the item to be procured.

The Sandiganbayan also refuted the accused’s claims that they were not aware that the vehicle being purchased by the city was something he used to own, stressing that the two officials could approve or disapprove the recommendations made by the town’s Bids and Awards Committee.

With this decision, both Balais and Go were sentenced to imprisonment from six years and a day as a minimum to 12 years.  They were also disqualified from holding public office.

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